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Chapter 1 - Reasons for War

from Part I - Agon Versus War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 June 2022

James S. Pearson
Affiliation:
University of Tartu, Estonia
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Summary

This chapter examines Nietzsche’s thoughts regarding physically destructive struggle (Vernichtungskampf) and, more specifically, war. I contest the exclusively agonistic reading of his philosophy by showing that throughout his writings Nietzsche gives a wide variety of reasons as to why we ought to value mortal forms of combat. I further argue that many of these arguments are underpinned by a quasi-Schopenhauerian ontology of violent conflict. According to this ontology, the impetus to engage in physically destructive struggle is untransformable. Hence, war is ineluctable because humans are defined by an irresistible drive for violent conflict. The periodic release of this ever-accumulating urge is in Nietzsche’s view socially cathartic, and to this extent enables flourishing. This is problematic for his agonistic readers, however, since they take Nietzsche to be pursuing the transformation of destructive into constructive struggle. My solution to this apparent contradiction is to suggest that Nietzsche’s problematic conception of destructive conflict is for the most part confined to his early writings. As he moves away from Schopenhauer and toward the natural sciences, he reconceives destructive conflict as the contingent expression of a general impulse to overpower others – one that can obtain discharge in nonviolent modes of conflict.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • Reasons for War
  • James S. Pearson, University of Tartu, Estonia
  • Book: Nietzsche on Conflict, Struggle and War
  • Online publication: 16 June 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009030519.002
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  • Reasons for War
  • James S. Pearson, University of Tartu, Estonia
  • Book: Nietzsche on Conflict, Struggle and War
  • Online publication: 16 June 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009030519.002
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Reasons for War
  • James S. Pearson, University of Tartu, Estonia
  • Book: Nietzsche on Conflict, Struggle and War
  • Online publication: 16 June 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009030519.002
Available formats
×